UFC 191: Johnson vs. Dodson Early Fight Card Preview and Predictions
UFC 190 and UFC 191 are polar opposites.
UFC 190 was big on names but short on actual title relevance. Old favorites and struggling vets were fighting for little more than pride. Even the most diehard Brazilian fans knew that the card was going to be a fleeting experience, devoid of any long-term repercussions.
UFC 191, though? Well, just take a look at the fights announced thus far for the September 5 event at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas:
- Demetrious Johnson vs. John Dodson
- Anthony Johnson vs. Jimi Manuwa
- Paige VanZant vs. Alex Chambers
- Francisco Rivera vs. John Lineker
- Joaquim Silva vs. Nazareno Melagerie
- Jan Blachowicz vs. Corey Anderson
That's a very strong foundation to a card, but add in the rumored Andrei Arlovski vs. Frank Mir heavyweight bout, and you have a deceptively great event in the works.
There's a lot to look forward to, so why not take a look forward to the biggest fights on the card? Keep reading to check out our early previews and predictions.
Jan Blachowicz vs. Corey Anderson
Division: Light Heavyweight
Records: Jan Blachowicz (18-4), Corey Anderson (5-1)
It was easy to buy into Jan Blachowicz when he was first signed by the UFC. The Polish equivalent of Luke Rockhold, he seemed to have the opportunistic striking and explosive submissions to hang with any light heavyweight in the world. When he debuted with a sternum-crushing victory over Ilir Latifi, he seemed ready to make a run to the top.
Then he lost clean to Jimi Manuwa. That nixed any discussion that he was going to make a quick run to the top and made it wholly unclear where he stacks up in the light heavyweight division.
Now, the former KSW champ is set to face The Ultimate Fighter 19 winner Corey Anderson. Anderson is a hot prospect, but he isn't complete at this point. Theoretically, this should be a straightforward win for Blachowicz. If he can't take this one, however, it will give him that most unenviable "free-agent bust" label.
Prediction: Jan Blachowicz def. Corey Anderson by decision
Francisco Rivera vs. John Lineker
Records: Francisco Rivera (12-4), John Lineker (25-7)
The heavy-handed John Lineker is back and is set to make his debut in the UFC's 135-pound division against Francisco Rivera. There is a great deal that can be said about this fight, but for the purposes of this article, things will be kept simple.
Both of these guys are hyperviolent.
Rivera and Lineker are two of the hardest hitters in the lower weight classes and have a press-forward-and-punch-hard style that will likely result in a slobberknocker of a fight. Even on a card filled with exciting matchups, this one is the clear favorite for Fight of the Night honors.
Predicting this one is tough, given how both men have inordinate amounts of fight-ending power. It doesn't get any easier when weighing the costs and benefits of Lineker's weight jump. Either man could take this one, but Rivera is the generally safer bet.
Prediction: Francisco Rivera def. John Lineker by TKO in Round 2
Paige VanZant vs. Alex Chambers
Division: Women's Strawweight
Records: Paige VanZant (5-1), Alex Chambers (5-2)
Paige VanZant is being groomed for stardom. The UFC is not attempting to hide that fact, either, as they gave the 21-year-old the easiest matchup they could muster, Alex Chambers.
That might sound mean, but Chambers has done little but struggle to this point in her UFC career. After getting effortlessly dispatched by Rose Namajunas on The Ultimate Fighter, Chambers came up well short of victory against Aisling Daly. She finally got into the win column by securing a miraculous armbar against Kailin Curran, but even that victory came after 13 minutes of unanswered punches to the face.
VanZant, regardless of being given grossly preferential treatment, has been doing her part in getting fast-tracked to the top. A gifted athlete and a vintage Jon Fitch-like grinder, she has looked unstoppable in the UFC thus far, most recently dominating Felice Herrig.
Quite frankly, VanZant would not have been put into this fight if there was a chance of losing. Her next fight will likely be the same story. Look for her to cruise to either a 30-point decision win or score a stoppage with ground-and-pound in the second or third frame.
Prediction: Paige VanZant def. Alex Chambers by TKO in Round 3
Andrei Arlovski vs. Frank Mir
Records: Andrei Arlovski (24-10, 1 NC), Frank Mir (18-9)
At one point, both Andrei Arlovski and Frank Mir seemed like they were completely done in MMA.
Arlovski suffered through one of the ugliest four-fight skids in MMA history, getting brutally knocked out by Fedor Emelianenko, Brett Rogers and Sergei Kharitonov (and also dropping a decision to Antonio Silva). His losses were so bad that pieces were being written saying that he shouldn't even be licensed to compete anymore.
Mir was in the same boat but much more recently. After an unlikely title berth in 2012, the former champ was battered for four fights in a row, and he never put forward any level of sustained offense during that stretch.
Somehow, some way, both men have surged back all the way to the Top 10. Better yet, whoever wins this fight may be in line for a title fight.
Obviously, this fight can go either way. We're dealing with two heavyweights with big hands and soft chins. The on-paper edge, however, goes to Arlovski, courtesy of his technically superior striking and stronger body of work over the last 12 months.
Prediction: Andrei Arlovski def. Frank Mir by TKO in Round 2
Anthony Johnson vs. Jimi Manuwa
Division: Light Heavyweight
Records: Anthony Johnson (19-5), Jimi Manuwa (15-1)
This is another fight for fans of knockouts.
Jimi Manuwa is one of the hardest hitters in MMA. He has knockout power in each of his proverbial eight limbs, and he can turn any strike that lands into a murderous, fight-ending combination. None of his first 14 bouts has reached the third round.
Anthony "Rumble" Johnson? Well, he knows how to beat somebody up, too. After a rocky start to his MMA career, Johnson has become a top light heavyweight, courtesy of his massive strength, sturdy takedown defense and devastating strikes.
This fight could easily end in a flash knockout in either direction, but Johnson's wrestling will likely prove to be the difference here. Look for Rumble to get the better of Manuwa in the clinch and potentially score a knockout in the later rounds.
Prediction: Anthony Johnson def. Jimi Manuwa by TKO in Round 2
Demetrious Johnson vs. John Dodson
Records: Demetrious Johnson (22-2-1), John Dodson (17-6)
It might not get the recognition it deserves, but Demetrious Johnson vs. John Dodson ranks among the best fights in the UFC this year.
Dodson has been largely forgotten over the last 12 months due to a serious knee injury, but he remains one of the most explosive fighters in the UFC today. With some of the heaviest hands under 170 pounds, potent wrestling and some amazing scrambling skills, he warrants top-10 pound-for-pound consideration.
That said, Johnson is possibly the best fighter in MMA today. With silky smooth wrestling and a striking style that leaves him almost unhittable, he has come very close to completely cleaning out his division in a way not seen since the days of prime Georges St-Pierre. If he continues dominating in the way he has been, he will rank among the greatest fighters of all time.
This is a great stylistic matchup, but there are only two ways it could conceivably go down.
Dodson came very close to defeating Johnson in their first fight by slinging heavy leather at Johnson in the early rounds. That was a wise strategy at the time, and it remains the best way to attack Johnson today. If the champ settles into his groove and gets his timing, he is almost unstoppable.
If Dodson wins this fight, it comes via early knockout. If this fight makes it through two rounds, however, it is tough to imagine Dodson taking the title.
Prediction: Demetrious Johnson def. John Dodson by decision